Pitmaster Interviews

Christopher B “Stubbs” Stubblefield: A Cook

Stubbs Audio Cookbook

by Daniel Vaughn · December 12, 2016
Image from Chris Oglesby

Lubbock guitarist, Jesse “Guitar” Taylor, was hitchhiking in Lubbock when a Cadillac pulled up. A stranger offered him a ride and Taylor hopped in. They drove for a bit and stopped in front of Stubb’s Bar-B-Que in East Lubbock. “I’ve walked by this place so many times and never been in here,” Taylor said to the driver. “Do you go in here very much?” The stranger replied, “Sir, I own this place!”

The driver was C. B. Stubblefield, better known as Stubb. He invited Taylor in for a barbecue sandwich and a cold beer. This was in the mid-1970’s, and as Taylor put it, “what started as a ride ended up being friendships that lasted half a lifetime.” The story is all from an interview with Taylor in Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music, a book about the West Texas music scene by Lubbock native Chris Oglesby.

Oglesby grew up in Lubbock. He was the son of Corky Oglesby, longtime coach and athletic administrator at Texas Tech, and his father took him to Stubb’s for barbecue when he was a kid. It closed by the time he graduated high school but he remembers eating the ribs and smoked chicken at the small restaurant, “and sometimes he’d make spaghetti.” Oglesby lives in Austin now, but runs a Lubbock-centric blog, virtualubbock, where he shares stories about West Texas (and some great ones about Stubb’s). One of those stories is about an audio cookbook the I first heard about on a Kitchen Sisters podcast.

Stubbs Bar-B-Que in Lubbock. Image from virtualubbock

Stubbs Bar-B-Que in Lubbock. Image from virtualubbock

Stubblefield was a great cook and amiable host at his restaurant in Lubbock, which he opened in 1968, but he wasn’t a great businessman. The IRS shut him down in 1984 and he moved to Austin. He found a job cooking barbecue at Antone’s, but it was short-lived. Finally, his friends in Austin, like Joe and Sharon Ely convinced him to bottle his sauce. Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Sauce is now an internationally recognized brand, but it began with vats of sauce handmade by Stubblefield. According to Oglesby’s interview with Sharon Ely, Stubblefield would bottle it in old Jack Daniel’s bottles with the labels scraped off. Those early bottles of sauce came with a cassette tape. It was an audio cookbook called “Stubb’s Blues Cookbook Cassette.”

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Oglesby has a copy of the full audio cookbook, and shared it with me long with a transcription sent to him by former Stubb’s employee, Rob Perlman. Short of interviewing Stubblefield ourselves, it’s the best insight we have on his barbecue cooking methods. I added to and edited Perlman’s transcription a bit after listening to the recordings which begin with Stubblefield singing Summertime. The entire recording is accompanied by guitar work from none other than Jesse Taylor:

Oh yeah. I’m gonna tell you a little story here, ladies and gentlemen. This is a true story about love and where I came from. Yeah. You know where I came from, ladies and gentlemen, they plant cotton. Oh yeah, and the cotton got tall. Sometimes it got so tall you had to climb the stalk to get the last bud. Oh yeah. There’s another reason, ladies and gentlemen, that I love this song. Yeah. We had a river, just a simple river. Sometimes you could go out, and kinda hunt for crawdads. Oh yeah. We had freedom, ladies and gentlemen. Real freedom. We had a lot of fun in those days, ladies and gentlemen. Oh yeah. You know, I don’t know how many cotton pickers is here, ladies and gentlemen. This is another reason I love this song. I don’t know how many cotton pickers is here at Stubb’s Bar-B-Que tonight, but the one thing that I do know, everybody, everybody that’s howling, everybody’s got a momma. That’s why I love this song.

You know, that’s one other thing, ladies and gentlemen, that I enjoy about Stubb’s Bar-B-Que, cause I’m a cook. That’s my plan. That’s my business. I want to feed the world, ladies and gentlemen, because I enjoy cooking.

Ha-ha. Yeah. Hello out there all you happy peoples. I want you to settle back, relax just for a little while. Cause right now, ladies and gentlemen, this program is coming to you live right out of the barbecue pit. We got a very special thing here…catered. Dedicated to the peoples who love barbecue, cold beer, and a whole lotta blues.

This program, like I said ladies and gentlemen, is coming to you live, right out of the barbecue pit. You know they tell me that Columbus discovered America. Right now you gonna get an opportunity to make your discovery and you ain’t gonna have no ocean to cross ladies and gentlemen. We get this program all wound up you gonna be one of the greatest cooks in the world, cause that what this program is all about.

We gonna teach you how to cook that good ole mouth smackin’ ribs, good old juicy sausage along with the briskets, beans, potato salad, turkey, ham, everything that goes along with barbecue, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the purpose of this very special audition of Stubbs himself. So we want you to settle back there and relax just for a little while cause its coming to you live, right outta the kitchen ladies and gentlemen.

When this program is finished, you too can say I am a cook, ladies and gentlemen. So we want you to pay attention, remember what we telling you, we gonna go it by the numbers. We gonna deal with pork ribs, sausage, chicken, ham, briskets, beef, turkey, we even gonna go to the ocean and grab a few fish along. We gonna talk to you a little bit about the pit, preparation, how you going to become a cook. That’s what this program is about ladies and gentlemen.

Okay ladies and gentlemens, right now we gonna go through the main thing about cooking barbecue. In order to cook good barbecue, you got to have something to cook it on. That means a pit. If you don’t know what pits is, ladies and gentlemen, all you gotta do is take a stroll though Texas. Look at some of the parks. You get a good idea what barbecue pits is made of, or what they look like. One of the main things about barbecue pits, you need to keep them clean. You have to be able to be sure that you choose the right kinda pit. You gotta have a pit that keeps a temperature. You gotta have a pit that won’t catch afire. You got to have a pit that you get all your meat in. You gotta have a pit that is clean. These are very important factors before you even thinking about cooking barbecue, you have to have a good pit to cook it in.

A barbecue pit ladies and gentlemen is kinda like a beautiful woman…you pick the one you think is the most beautiful. Could look like Graba Gerdy or Marilyn Monroe, as long as it’s your choice. That’s what this thing is all about. Second to that, ladies and gentlemens, is the wood. I cook on three kinds of wood. The most plentiful wood you find is mesquite. Second to that is oak, the most wood you can’t find any more is hickory. Hickory is something that’s almost a thing of the past, kinda like the Model T Ford, they done faded outta history. Sometimes you can pick up hickory chips when your using charcoal through your grocery stores or whatever. So it is very important that you know what kind of wood you gonna use and know how to start a fire and to know fire prevention. The best thing to use if you get too much fire in the pit is keep you a little box of soda along just in case you do get a blaze all you have to do is sprinkle the soda in, that will disseminate the fire. And always remember to not to get too much heat in the pit and depends on the kinda meat that you cooking’. We’ll get into all these details as we go along with this cookbook.

Right now I’m gonna grab me a cold Budweiser [laughing]. You know beer is a thing that goes with the blues. You always have to take you a little break n’ get you a good ole cold Budweiser beer. It’s good for you. Keep you from sweating so much cause the pit’s gonna get hot.

So as we move along into this program, ladies and gentlemen, next thing we gonna talk about is meat. It is very important that you know what kinda meat…what your taste bud means you know? You cannot substitute chicken for pork ribs, pork chops for beef, beef for turkey, turkey for fish. You have to have the right thing in mind. And believe me, you need to have the right thing in mind when you makin’ preparations for food. It’s very important that you have everything you need right where you got it, right in the pit area. Where you got your meat all cut up into pieces that’s small enough to go inside of the pit where they won’t be hanging all on the outside. That includes an equal cut– it’s very important that all your meat be put into equal sizes.

So, we gonna deal here now with pork ribs. Notice please, for Stubb, the kinda rib that I like to use is called “three and down”. “Three and down” means a slab of rib weighs three pounds…”three and down” means three to one. Not over four pounds then you have the ribs weigh from three to five or eight, whatever the size you have. But the best rib to barbecue is “three and down.” And, be sure that the rib fits into your pit.

Always remember one thing here I might point out, never start a fire with meat in the pit. Be sure, for cooking ribs again, we dealing with ribs right now, you want to maintain a temperature of 175 degrees inside the pit, no more than 250. That’s where you start your fire. Be sure you got your fire already going, to where all you gotta do is put your ribs in and always remember to put your fat side up. Now this is the important thing to remember right here that you wont ever put ribs on top of each other. You wanna allow enough space in between so the heat can penetrate, so you get a even cook.

Now a lot of peoples go to marinating. This is one other thing that I want to emphasize, that I marinate as I cook. Normally I put my ribs on the fire, I let them cook about thirty five minutes, and then I do my thing with my salt and my pepper, maybe a little vinegar, for marinating. One thing you wanna remember that never put nothing on your ribs or any kinda meat that’s got sugar or syrup. This is what cause it to turn black and crystallize. You wanna use a good salt and pepper base and a little vinegar and watch it. This is most important when you cooking ribs. At one point when you see it turning a little bit on the brown side, you have to watch it, then to remember you have to love what you doing. You have to have feelings for what you doing. You have to really understand and a good set of eyes and a good quick set of fingers. And the moment your ribs start to getting real brownish color, then you need to flip it to one side and let the other side catch up with the other one provided if it’s not cooking right, or not getting an even cook. In most cases, you gonna get an even cook if you follow this real slow unique way of keeping your eyes on them and watching them. And not having your pit too hot nor having it too low. And about two hours and a half, you will take off and enjoy some of the most dedicated ribs that mouth ever said good morning to.

Okay, next thing we gonna go to here, we gonna go through chicken. Most commonly thing you find cooking in a barbecue pit in the home is chicken. Most people can do this. First thing you wanna do is be sure you got your chicken cut in all equal parts. I prefer cooking chicken cut in half. This way you don’t have all the little pieces to fool with. You put the chicken on same as you would ribs, about the same temperature. You might wanna increase your temperature like from 225 to 275 for cooking chickens. Chicken, it needs a little bit more heat because it’s got to get cooked all the way through to the bone. And you use the same system for marinating. You cook it and marinate at the same time. This way you wont get your meat all dark or burnt or too much salt or too much pepper. And remember to keep your pit at that temperature. Keep your meat inside of the pit rather than having it hanging on the outside, or too much meat stacked all over top of each other. One very important thing to remember about chicken, ladies and gentlemen, chicken need to be fully cooked and the one way to make sure that it’s fully cooked is to take you a piece off when you think it’s fully cooked, get you a knife, and cut it right to the bone. Should you see reddish meat, a little blood dripping, then you know it’s not done. You know to return it to the pit and cook it just a little longer.

Say man what’s wrong with them horses out there? Them Budweiser horses.

Ah, the next thing we gonna get into, ladies and gentlemen, is the big meat. That’s the brisket. Brisket is the most common known meat you find in any barbecue joint. Brisket is a piece of meat that weighs anywhere from 5 to 25 pounds depending on what you wanna use it for and how many people you want to feed. My thing for brisket is to not to weigh less than 8, more than 13 pounds for your home cooking. This enables you to be able to handle it so you won’t have so much weight to deal with, and you don’t have to get your fire out of order, and putting in more or less heat. You do the brisket almost the same as you do all the other meat we’ve spoken of. You put the brisket in the pit with the fat side up. Always remember that. You let your brisket start cooking for about an hour. Then you use your basic marinating for whatever you want to put on it. And for a brisket, it takes anywhere from six to eight to ten hours to cook it. One thing about a brisket, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to remember this point, that most peoples think you cook with smoke. Smoke is the purpose for aroma. You need heat. You must always remember that. Keep you live heat in your pit so you got the heat to cook with and you got your aroma to smoke your meat with.

One danger point here I might point out if you have the tendency to cook your meat too slow, it has a tendency to spoil. If you cook it too fast, you’re gonna burn it up. So those are the two differences between them. And it’s always important to remember the weight factor and the kind of meat that you’re cooking.

And for briskets, you have to remember just to put them in the pit, leave them for about an hour, and then you slowly marinate them. You don’t wanna get too much salt or too much pepper, and you can put in a little garlic powder, whatever your taste buds is for when you wanna use your marinating. Most peoples in this day and age, don’t like certain types of ingredients, reason why I’m putting it this way. You have to satisfy your own tastes, your own values. But under any circumstances when you cook your meat properly, you gonna get the best taste for all of it. So when you invite your friends over from New York, Chicago, Rome, Italy, or Paris, France you have your backyard cookout, you have something to be proud of, something to really enjoy. And for one thing, you’re saving money by doing this yourself.

The next thing we gonna get into is the big bird. You know most holidays, we have what we call Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, we wanna go to the big bird, better known as the turkey. The gobble gobble gobba [laughing]. A lotta peoples goes out and buy a bird, a turkey. I can tell you, you can cook a turkey yourself. It’s not a lotta problems, just take a lotta love and understanding. Maybe that old husband or that old family or somebody might been mad at you all your life might be proud to know that you have prepared them a good meal rather than going out and buying it.

So, the best thing to do is be sure your turkey weighs from 15, 18 pounds, depending on the number of people you wanna feed. And my strongest suggestion is to put that turkey and be sure you thaw it out, and all the loose things out of it, from both ends. And get you pot, just a regular old boiling pot that you can put a lid on. Put it in there and put cold water on it, let it come to a, not a boil, cause you don’t want it to tear the breast and tear the meat up or tear the wings up. And let it simmilate for about an hour, with nothing on it, just plain old water. And after an hour of cooking there you wanna take it out and be careful that you don’t burn yourself or tear it up. Take it and put it into your pit. The best way to do a turkey to keep from putting it on your rack in the pit is put a piece of foil paper underneath it. And put your marinating pepper and salt or whatever you putting on, and then take your foil paper and kinda fold it up a bit. And leave it in there for about four or five hours, then you come back to it, you take the foil paper and releases it and leave it in on the pit, and leave your turkey right in where it get heat from all parts of your pit. And you watch it, if it needs slightly turning to one side, you do that. And the main thing you wanna do is handle it with love and care. You don’t wanna break the wings turning it over or have scrambled turkey. You wanna be very careful with this bird. Because you remember you feeding your loved ones and you want them to be happy and you want them to be proud of you. And it should take a turkey no more than eight hours in the pit, seven hours total, weighing from 15 to 18 pounds. Course if you get a bigger bird, you have to allow for a little bit longer time for cooking it. And, that is about the way you do a bird, and you can call your friends and your neighbors around and you gonna have a very good Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas turkey and you’ll be able to enjoy it.

The next thing we gonna talk about here is ham. There’s a lotta ways to cook a ham, but the best way is to remember when you buying a ham to know whether or not that it’s raw, green, or already pre-cooked. It’s very important to know those three things. If you got a pre-cooked ham, look at whatever the label reads on it, and it’ll give you mostly what you need to do to it. If the ham is totally raw, then you have to go through the process you do the turkey. And do the same thing as you would a turkey. Remember, you don’t ever want to use any sugar or syrup or anything that crystallize and turns dark while you cooking your meat.

And, the next thing we gonna talk about is the ocean. Say man, what’s wrong with them mules? Them horses is acting up out there. Well, it’s time to take a good ole’ break right here, I’m gonna jump outta here right now and grab me a Budweiser. You know, when you got Bud, you said it all. You just can’t sit here and do this cooking and enjoy this good music without a good ole’ cold beer. And that means Budweiser. ‘Cause it’s the king. Got to be the king ’cause he sits on the throne.

After you got your Budweiser, we gonna get right back here and talk about fish. Fish is another thing that comes in all different categories. But it’s only one or two ways to cook it. If you cooking it in the pit, it’s always best to have heat. It takes probably more heat cause you need to cook fish faster than you do any other meat that you cooking. It will take less time to cook fish than it would any other meat we’ve spoken of. And, you wanna be very careful that your fire is right, not over 225 for cooking fish. And you wanna marinate it a little bit. You wanna put some foil paper underneath, ’cause it’s hard to handle, where you won’t tear it all up, and you gonna have to use some quick eyes and some quick fingers. And remember that when you cooking fish, it’s not like chicken or anything else that you got. It take approximately two and a half to four hours to get your fish really smoked to where you can really enjoy it.

The next thing we gonna go to those mouth smackin’ sausage. No matter what you say about sausage, you got about fifty thousand different kinds of sausage, so again, you have to use your taste buds. Texas, particularly Texas has got all kinds of sausage in it. You have the German sausage, the Japanese sausage, the Italian sausage, Belgians, or whatever. The main thing about a sausage is same thing holds true with your turkey; whether it’s pre-cooked or not. In most cases your sausage is pre-cooked. You have to look at it, and if it’s raw, you don’t need to season it, you don’t need to marinate it because it’s got a skin on it, and you wanna use a very low temperature while you cooking your sausage. And you wanna watch sausage more than anything that you cooking, simply because it will cook and bust. It’ll tear up on you. And once you get it all torn up you got a miserable mess and you don’t want that ’cause you wasting your money. That’s the idea of this cookbook; preparing you to cook where you can save money and enjoy yourself and have a whole lotta love doing it. And like I say again, you just have to pick out what you like in sausage. Sausage come in turkey sausage, wild geese sausage, polecat sausage, armadillo sausage or whatever you want. But remember to check the labels. And after following all these processes ladies and gentlemen, coming right outta Stubb’s kitchen, you can say, “ladies and gentlemen, I know that I’m a cook.”

And we gonna come back here in a minute…What’s wrong with them mules, them horses man? Hey man, is that a Budweiser keg out at them horses? Well, they can’t get at it can they? I think them horses is getting drunk on me man. They keep moving around out there. Say, tie them horses to another place man. Get away from that Budweiser beer [laughing].

Okay, we gonna get here now to some beans, and potato salad, and coleslaw. This is the common things you use with barbecue. Beans, to barbecue is like “T” on Texas and “D” on Dallas, they just go together. Potato salad is just like the gulf coast, the Brazos River and the Colorado. It makes up Texas. Coleslaw fits in anybody’s territory. So, it’s little to do with beans ladies and gentlemen. Most thing to do with beans is boil them. Put them on a pot, watch them, be sure you got the rocks, and all that other stuff out of them. Put you some fat back in them, and cook them until they are soft and tender. You can add a little chili powder, little garlic, little mexican mexican or whatever you so desire. And, you gonna have some of the beans that is equally delicious to your barbecue. One thing about beans, you got to dehydrate the little gas out of them, else you gonna get it all through the house at night. And one way to do that, put you a little baking soda in them, and that’ll smooth out all that easiness so you’ll sleep comfortable at night and won’t kill nobody [laughing].

And potato salad, there’s a thousand ways to make potato salad, ladies and gentlemen. My way of making potato salad is get you the medium amount of potato salad, boil your potatoes. Don’t overcook them, peel them, mash them a little bit, dice them, add little mayonnaise, little mustard, sweet relish, celery, onion, bell pepper, season to your taste. Your taste. Therefore, you’ll have some of the best potato salad that has ever been made.

This program, ladies and gentlemen, like I say, it’s coming to you live right from Stubb’s kitchen. Right outta the pit. Ladies and gentlemen, I also want you to remember that Stubb’s barbecue sauce is some of the best that ever been put together. Nobody makes Stubb’s barbecue sauce like Stubb do. You will remember that that sauce is made to go on anything you get out to cook for barbecue, I mean hamburgers, whatever you wanna use it for. Also, ladies and gentlemen, we got a mail order situation, for Stubb’s barbecue, big bottle of barbecue sauce. You need to send a check or money order to:

P.O. Box 1644
Austin, Texas 78767

Also ladies and gentlemen , we get a cookbook and a great big bottle of barbecue sauce shipped to you for only $12.95 plus $2.35 for shipping charges.

God bless, and if you enjoy this, you gonna have it the world over right outta the deep hearts of Texas. Thank you.

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C B Stubblefield. Photo from Stubbsbbq.com

When Stubblefield passed away in 1995, Taylor played at his funeral along with Terry Allen and Joe Ely. After Taylor passed away, Allen, Ely, and Paul Milosevich (who designed the Stubb’s barbecue sauce label) led the effort to turn the site of Stubb’s into a memorial. Allen created the bronze sculpture that’s on the site today. Barbecue Beyond the Grave is the official name of the memorial. Oglesby also interviewed Allen, who remembered fondly that, “Stubb’s use of the English language was about as unique as anyone I’ve ever known.”

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Stubb’s memorial in Lubbock

To hear that voice for yourself, here’s a clip from 1991 with Stubblefield cooking chicken, ribs, and brisket with David Letterman. It’s a classic:

Comments

8 Comments

    Russ Parsons says:

    Hey Daniel, nice! I’ve got the cassette and I’ve actually got a couple of bottles of the original sauce in my pantry. I’m sure they’re spoiled by now, but I just can’t stand to throw them away. Stubb and I at one point were working on his autobiography. He’d record these long rambling reminiscences with funky 50s Chicago blues in the background. I think three 90-minute tapes in we had covered about a week. I believe Joe and Sharon Ely have those now. Here’s a piece I did after Stubb died. http://articles.latimes.com/1995-06-08/food/fo-10681_1_barbecue-cook

    Concetta Mastroianni says:

    Please keep me informed of any other Stubb’s information you might have. Stubb was a friend of mine from years ago in Lubbock. I have many memories and stories stored away in my heart and mind.

    Charlie says:

    I met Mr. Stubblefield several times when he ran a BBQ joint East side of I-35 around 38th street…It was REEALLY good!

    Susan Drymala says:

    I remember eating at the bbq place in Austin. It was the best ever! Always keep Stubbs sauce on hand. Absolutely love it! I would also enjoy the cookbook as I love cooking for friends, family, and clients.

    Kevin Bolling says:

    I had the honor of meeting na talking to Mr. Stubblefield when he was at Antone’s when I was a young’un working up the street at The Hole and continued the conversation at his eatery on 38th. He was more than cordial with the BBQ newb I was. The wisdom I got from him was ” don’t rush it.. if you think it’s done..
    have a beer..then check it..”

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